Thrill Rides

Thrill Rides

Prolific Crime Novelist Lisa Unger’S Favorite Works Of Suspense

Prolific crime writer Lisa Unger is fresh off the book tour for her latest novel, The Stranger Inside, about a former journalist and mother whose quiet suburban life is upended when she learns about a disturbing case that echoes a trauma from her childhood. The idea that sparked the book, Unger’s 17th, sprung from research she was doing for another novel.

The New York Times best-selling author always seems to have a book under way, with two new novels in the works for 2020 and 2021. Her busy publication schedule means making plenty of public appearances when she isn’t writing.

Unger, 49, finds it rewarding to go out on the road and meet readers in person, but she’s an introvert at heart.

Jay Nolan

“After being thrust into a few weeks of extravert activity, I find I’m nourished by solitude,” she says. She follows a rigorous writing schedule, waking as early as 5 a.m. to get to work, but reading regularly is just as important, she says.

“All writers are readers first,” Unger says. “That’s where we fall in love with story, character, and world weaving.”

The writer of page-turners like Under My Skin, named one of 2018’s best mysteries, shared a few of her favorite thrilling reads that have inspired and excited her.

1. Rebecca By Daphne du Maurier

“This was my first thriller. Its theme, of the ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, runs through a lot of my work as well. Even now, so many years later, if I pick up Rebecca and start reading, it is utterly propulsive. It builds on itself in a perfect way.”

Rebecca By Daphne du Maurier
Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

2. Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

“This is one of my favorite books of all time, and in a very real sense I think of it as a thriller. It has so many dark layers. It’s so compelling, and you’re so involved with Jane, her voice, and the tragedy of her youth. She finds a place where she’s finally safe, but then there are all these secrets. I think every great story has that beating heart of mystery at its core. There has to be a question you’re asking yourself, even if it’s just about what happens to this character.”

3. Mystic River By Dennis Lehane

“I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Lehane I didn’t love—he’s a stellar writer. Mystic River is my favorite of his. It’s about childhood, friendship, and how the experiences of our lives form and change us, and yet somehow the people we’re closest to don’t always see or understand it. It’s a very deep character study, as well as great crime fiction. There’s a mystery at its center, and we see how one life-altering moment from childhood has implications across generations. It’s about tiny moments upon which our whole lives pivot.”

Mystic River By Dennis Lehane
In Cold Blood By Truman Capote

4. In Cold Blood By Truman Capote

“This book is where I fell in love with language. It gave me permission to be who I was as a writer. I’ve always had a dark imagination and big questions about human nature, what drives people and makes them do the things they do. With In Cold Blood, I discovered you could ask those questions with an unflinching eye and great beauty. It showed me that it’s possible to look at the horrible things people do with compassion. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning it, but that you’re trying to understand.”

5. The Goldfinch By Donna Tartt

“People don’t think of this as crime fiction, but it’s probably one of my favorites of all time. I made an effort to slow my reading down so it would never end. It’s an epic story of this very broken young man and all the gyrations of his life after this one terrible event and the theft of this piece of art. It’s a masterwork—there’s nothing about it that’s not perfect, from the characterization to the beauty of the language to the web of the plot. You cannot look away, even though you know it’s going to go badly for this character.”

The Goldfinch By Donna Tartt

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